2017 has been a year of new beginnings for SAAPRI as we charged ahead with a focus on developing new means of community engagement. Below is a review of some of the initiatives of which we have been a part.
Ahimsa: The End of Violence (May 22nd)
SAAPRI co-hosted the ‘Ahimsa: The End of Violence’ performance with the Kalapriya Center for Indian Performing Arts. The event began with an elaboration on the concept of Ahimsa and with Kalapriya artists using Carnatic music and harikatha performance to wrestle with ideas of violence and justice.
Following the performance, SAAPRI board member, Aditi Singh, moderated a panel discussion with Payal Kumar of Chicago Desi Youth Rising, Radhika Sharma Gordon of Apna Ghar, Inc., Ahmed Khan, former Director of Operations at the Indian American Muslim Council, and Lisa Butler of herVoice, Inc. The discussion touched on violence within and against our communities, the panelists’ work to address community violence through art, story-telling and advocacy, and the importance of solidarity across communities of color.
Desi Round Table (September 24)
SAAPRI hosted its first “Desi Round Table” discussion for SAAPRI supporters and community members from South Asian organizations, agencies, businesses, and universities. SAAPRI convened the round table discussion to address some of the most important issues facing our community today including DACA and immigration relief, the rise in hate crimes, and the need for civic engagement. Participants strategized on how to build South Asian solidarity, communicate more effectively, reach vulnerable populations, and harness the assets and potential within the South Asian American community. This is the start to a series of round table events that will seek to engage in focused, solution-oriented dialogue and to highlight and encourage the work of our peers.
Be the Change Day (October 2)
SAAPRI hosted a “Be the Change Day” civic engagement workshop and letter writing campaign for students from the Loyola Hindu Students’ Organization. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world,” SAAPRI used this day to help students explore issues that were important to them and ways in which to make impacts within their communities and with elected representatives. SAAPRI presented on the importance of having South Asian representation in government and on the data pointing to the relatively low levels of voter registration and civic engagement among South Asians in Illinois. The students were asked to write letters to their elected representatives about either a local (ex. Cook County ID Program), state (ex. IL Student ACCESS Bill), or national (ex. DREAM Act) issue as a way to counter this trend and as first steps to building habits for civic engagement. Guest speaker, Kevin Olickal, the Legislative and Community Outreach Coordinator for the 46th IL House District, also shared his experiences of civic engagement among community members within his district and the efficacy of contacting one’s representatives and participating on the local level.
Loyola Philanthropy Dinner (November 10)
SAAPRI attended the Loyola University Chicago Hindu Students’ Organization‘s first annual Philanthropy Dinner. Loyola students had partnered with SAAPRI in the 2017-2018 academic year to volunteer their time, fundraise, and raise awareness for the organization. The event highlighted the need for South Asians to be more involved in service and in politics, and featured guest speakers Ann Kalayil, SAAPRI Co-founder, and Chirayu Patel, who raised a call to action in support of the DREAM Act. Students discussed the importance of civic engagement and wrote postcards to their representatives about issues that are important to them. SAAPRI looks forward to continuing to work with students at Loyola and create opportunities for student groups across Chicagoland to advocate for their communities.
Chicago’s Municipal ID
This year, SAAPRI has renewed its work in advocating for the Chicago Municipal ID program. Through the Health Communities Cook County coalition led by Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Communities United, SAAPRI has supported the further implementation of the program. In a letter to the City Council, the coalition outlined the benefits of Municipal ID program to various communities and not just the immigrant community. We have also took part in reviewing the regulations in the program to make sure the program meets the community’s concerns over privacy and record keeping. Finally, following the DACA recission, we published a joint statement with the other members of the Chicago South Asian Deferred Action Coalition (SADAC) on the need for the passage of a clean DREAM Act as well as for the implementation of a Municipal ID program which would give undocumented individuals and other vulnerable groups access to IDs and essential local services that require an ID. We hope to continue this advocacy as the City rolls out its program.
Report Hate Project
SAAPRI joins an initiative led by the Arab American Institute called the Report Hate Project. Given the rise in hate crimes, this initiative seeks to find ways to better educate community members on their rights and provide information on how to report and address hate crimes and incidents. Preliminary meetings have lead to plans for the development of an informational toolkit for our communities.
Thank you to all those who attended our events this past year!